I’ve been an avid iPad user for 30 months and counting. I still love and use my Pad a lot, but I also bought a new Surface RT. Will my Surface ever completely replace my iPad? I don’t know yet, but I’d love to find out. This blog series is aimed at comparing the two devices in all sorts of situations, from work to home, and analyzing the pros and cons of each. You can read other entries in the series using the links below.
12,000 Apps vs. 275,000 Apps
31 months after its introduction, the Apple App Store has 275,000 apps for the iPad. If you include all the iPhone apps that still run on the iPad, that number jumps to a whopping 700,000 apps.
How can the Surface compete with this, given it just came out 12 days ago and only has 12,000 apps? For starters, 12,000 is more apps than anyone would ever use. I currently have about 75-80 apps on my Surface and even after 30 months of iPad ownership, I have 350 apps on it.
The app store numbers game is often quoted, but remember that it’s not about the number of apps, but rather making sure you have the right apps. Windows Phone has 10 times as many apps as the Windows Store, but as I wrote about earlier this year, there are still some key iPhone apps missing on Windows Phone. I figured it would be a good idea to do something similar here and quickly review the top 10 iPad apps missing in the Windows Store for Surface and other Windows 8/Windows RT users.
1-2. Facebook and LinkedIn
When Windows Phone shipped, Microsoft knew they needed a Facebook app, so they actually paid an outside firm to build an official Facebook app on their dime (with Facebook’s blessing, of course). Why is Surface then shipping without a Facebook app? Granted, the iPad shipped without a Facebook app and it took until October 2011 (18 months after launch) before we got one.
The same goes for LinkedIn. It took even longer before we got a LinkedIn app (2 years). Given how the LinkedIn iPad app is actually a mobile web app wrapped in a native shell, you’d think they could easily port it to the Windows Store.
The People hub/app on Windows RT does provide a very good level of integration to various social networks, including Windows Live/Microsoft Account, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. That’s greatly useful and it does provide cool cross-network features normally not available in silo’ed apps, but there are also Facebook-specific features we want in a dedicated app, such as the Timeline, Groups, Fan Pages, Likes, and more. The same goes for LinkedIn Messages, Groups, News Updates and more.
3-4. IMDb and Audible
Amazon is a content company. They don’t care if you buy & consume their content on an iPad, Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD or Surface (though no love for the BlackBerry Playbook). As such, they made sure they had a Kindle Reader app available in the Windows Store on Day 1… and stopped there. Amazon actually owns a few of the most popular apps on iPad, including the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Audible services. IMDb is the perfect companion to anyone that’s ever watched a TV show or movie and asked “Where have I seen her before?” or “Was Johnny Depp in The Matrix?”
Audible is the premier service for Audio Books. There technically isn’t an Audible iPad app, you’re instead stuck using the iPhone version on an iPad. That doesn’t matter since the nature of audio books is that you interact with the app less than 1% of the time when you listen to them. There is an Audible app for Windows Phone, but since Windows Phone apps can’t run on Windows RT (what a missed opportunity, topic for another day), we therefore need a dedicated Audible app in the Windows Store.
I really want these apps on my Surface. While we’re talking about Amazon, I would also like to see them bring more of their iPad apps to the Surface, including the Amazon shopping app, Amazon Instant Video and Amazon Windowshop.
5-6. Flipboard and Instapaper
I’m repeating myself here, I know. I love Flipboard as it’s the ultimate best news reader app on any platform, and my favorite app of all time. I won’t dig too much on Flipboard here, you can simply read last week’s Favorite Fridays post as I was hunting the Windows Store for a replacement.
Instapaper is one of the greatest services ever and credit goes to Scott Hanselman as he convinced me to start using it. Throughout the course of any week, I stumble upon tons of great articles via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email and most often via my expansive Google Reader feed. There are too many to read and I often want to remember them so I can read them later. Instapaper saves me from keeping 74 web browser tabs open. I instead “save” links for reading later via a single browser shortcut, and Instapaper saves them in my (free) account. Better yet, Instapaper strips out all the menus, ads and fluff from the web page, keeping only the core formatted text and graphics of the article, making it easy to read in the Instapaper app on a phone or tablet.
Instapaper even packages my 10 most recent articles into a Kindle eBook every Friday and emails it to my Kindle PaperWhite device. I often read saved Instapaper articles on my iPad though, especially when I fly somewhere. I need this app on my Surface.
7-8. Dropbox & Yelp
Windows 8 and Windows RT are beautifully integrated with SkyDrive. This makes it easy to manage my photos, music and documents between the cloud and multiple computers. Not everyone uses SkyDrive though, and even if they do, many have been using Dropbox for years and this is where they store their documents & files in the cloud. If the Surface is to be a true player in the mobile ecosystem, it’s important that we get a Dropbox app in the Windows Store.
On a different note, we need to remember that tablets are mobile devices too, and people use them on the road. Sooner or later, you’ll be looking for a place to eat or buy stuff. Yelp is the premier website, and now app, for people looking for a good restaurant. It’s not rocket science, we need a Yelp app on Surface.
9. e*Trade & Other Finance Apps
Tablets are great to keep an eye on stocks, financial news, indices and your personal portfolio. You can do it on a smartphone but the larger screen on tablets is really better suited for financial data visualization, especially if you want to place trades too. I’m no day trader, but I personally use the e*Trade app on the iPad and I would love to get a Windows Store app as well, not just for Surface, but also for use on all my Windows 8 computers.
Maybe you prefer a different finance app to track stocks & read financial news. Other key finance apps missing include CNBC Real-Time, Bloomberg, Fox Business and MarketDash by Yahoo Finance.
10. Cable & Network Streaming Apps
By now, most cable & satellite companies have their own apps on the iPad, including Comcast Xfinity, Time Warner Cable and others. Some can be used as a TV schedule guide, others even allow you to search & queue up on-demand movies to your cable box or program your DVR. As more and more people are watching TV on the road and on the go, we need these apps on Surface. Once you start using them, it’s hard to give them up.
Streaming video to your tablet is also a critical scenario on any successful tablet (sorry PlayBook). We already have the two key video streaming apps on Surface: Netflix & HuluPlus. That’s great start, but I want to see more, including HBO GO, Amazon Instant Video, a CNN app that let’s me stream live TV, and others.
Day 8 Summary
There are of course many more apps missing on Surface today. Your list may be different than mine. I could add the Safari Books Online app which lets me read 1000’s of technical books on my iPad, or two of the best productivity apps for the iPad: SharePlus and ReportPlus. When it comes the the latter two, I may actually be able to do something about it. Stay tuned.
I will be updating this post over the coming months as some (and hopefully all) of these apps get released in the Windows Store, so make sure to bookmark this page and come back from time to time.
If you have any questions about Surface, including suggestions for future topics to explore in this series, questions about my experiences with the Surface vs. iPad, or any other tablet, feel free to ask them in the comments section below, or contact me on Twitter at @ActiveNick.
If you’re a developer interested in building apps for Surface, Windows 8 and Windows RT, Infragistics has the right tools for you with the new NetAdvantage for Windows UI. You should also follow @infragistics on Twitter.
Did you buy a Surface or other Windows RT tablet? Are you waiting for the Windows 8 Pro tablets? What are some of the key apps you want to see on Surface? Is your list very different than mine? Let me know.
See you tomorrow! [Link to Day 9: Favorite Fridays >> Windows Phone App]